Political Prisoners

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Rogers Park Sunday

I gotta get out more with the camera.

From the alley north of Devon, looking east toward Loyola and the Mundelein College building.

From the alley east of Sheridan at Farwell, looking south. I have spent more of my life walking the alleys of this neighborhood than I care to admit.

St. Ignatius of Loyola carillon tower. I've taken this shot at least a hundred times. It's always interesting to me. You have to remember I spent ten years living in Phoenix, and even though I've been back here for a long time, my eyes are still adjusting to actual architecture.

Sparrow on a limb on Lakewood. I just wanted to post this somewhere so I can refer to it in March when winter seems like it will never go away.

Pokemon hunters at the beach. This Pokemon game brings out people from every walk of life. There are people who look like they haven't been out of the house in ten years out walking around on the beach right now, looking for these damn Pokemons, or whatever they are. I have no idea.

These two stopped in front of me and had a conversation in English where I couldn't understand a single word they were saying. Apparently the young one was aware of something that was north, and the old one was confirming a deeply held belief about something else.

Opt Out and ISBE

Chiming in here....

ISBE has been having what they call a "listening tour" around the state; it's a series of meetings for people to comment on the state's draft plan for dealing with ESSA.

Here's the official schedule of the tour.  You can see there's going to be a stop at Simeon on Sept. 27.

Here's a FAQ from the tour. I have no idea what's going on with highly qualified nor do I particularly care.

I keep looking for stuff on opt-out and not finding it, so I'm not sure what the state is going to make up as a draconian threat for this year's opt-outers.

The only thing I see is that there has been some mention of opt-out during the tour, and this is what the note-taker posted.

My suggestion would be that if you do indeed attend one of these meetings to make a statement about opt-out, you preface your remarks with, "I request that any notes from my comments record that I am in favor of opt-out, and that I advocate policies that recognize and respect an individual's existing right to opt-out of tests."

Because I think the note-taker may be opting to leave that sentiment out of the notes. Just a guess; I haven't been at any of the meetings. I can't imagine someone stood up at a meeting and said, "I'm worried about opt-out impacting teacher evaluation, so we should definitely force the free-thinking families to have their kids take this invalid test so that teacher scores include these kids who are likely to do well on tests."

I mean, I guess that's possible, but I really doubt it.

Once you put evaluation-connected stakes on these tests, you poison them. And they're already bad enough.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Conference That Wasn't

Does anyone know why the Gulenists dropped their strange academic conference this year?

I never have time to circle back to this topic, although I've started reaching out to some of the people who've attended these things in the past.

This is a world-wide pattern in the Gulen universe, these conferences. It's the perfect public relations forum: pay a bunch of random academics to fly in and present a paper and give them awards ("Best Paper," Best Poster"). It's a win-win for everyone. Nobody has any idea why they're there except for the free weekend in Chicago.

This was going in Chicago in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and then they skipped this year, and I'm wondering why.

Here was the 2015 program. 

Here were the 2014 keynote speakers.

Here were the 2013 keynote speakers.

You see lots of familiar faces, if you've been watching the local Gulen influence outreach program over time.

The Best Schools!

These things are so tedious. For reasons that have been explained to death.

These lists are bullshit; they give credence to other bullshit lists that are used to close the schools of poor people.

Every time your school gets on some idiotic top-ten list you should politely, publicly reject it.

The Precinct Experience

There's a very typical Chicago story going on here; apparently a local Grammy-winning artist had a gun to face this morning, which is a horrible thing. Thank god he's ok.

He posted this footage from the precinct later.

Now, I come at this from an entirely different universe, I don't deny that. A bubble of privilege surrounds me. But I myself wouldn't be walking into a precinct with a camera running; for me it's one of those things where I put myself in the cop's shoes. Like, at any moment some crazy parent could come into my office with a camera running and yell at me about why such and such a thing happened at school---and post that on Youtube-- because it's a public building. Legal but not civil. I wouldn't whip out the camera even after I was greeted with indifference by an officer who doesn't even put her sandwich down for a second.

But let me also say this. From what I've seen with my own eyes, the cops really do have a policy of treating everyone who walks in like an asshole. I've been there. You walk in to report a drug distribution network has moved onto your corner, and you get the stinkeye. You call 911 because some kids are shooting guns into the fence you're hiding behind, and responding officers, with eyeballs rolling,  call it fireworks until you point out the shell casings they're standing on.

And I'm someone who likes the cops and thinks we need more of them, and that we need to not rob their pensions and all of that. Generally speaking I enjoy talking to the cops working in the neighborhood, and I appreciate them being around.

I'm sure it's a shit job, sitting at the front desk of the precinct; and I'm sure it's dangerous. But just try it sometime: go in there after something bad has happened and make a report. Let me know how that goes for you.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Dumbest Thing on Twitter

This continues to be the dumbest thing ever said on Twitter by a smart person.

Really? Schools fail to teach that? This sounds like some dumb thing Arne Duncan would say at a luncheon.

Isn't it more likely that people in general have a tough time with being skeptical of claims while simultaneously knowing how and when to embrace the weight of evidence?

Why it has to framed as some failure of the schools is beyond me. Skepticism requires a lot of natural intelligence and a breadth of knowledge. Embracing the weight of evidence is a pretty complex decision that people make--- it draws on available information, aptitude, and ethics, and probably a lot more.

I've never been in a school where kids weren't involved in analyzing an argument or evaluating evidence. Those things are taught. There really aren't any teachers anywhere (outside of religious schools) telling kids just to accept assertions without questions.

Dr. Tyson himself probably went to school with some other kids in the Bronx. Those kids sat through the same lessons as he did. I'm pretty sure that some of his classmates grew up to be knuckleheads, while he grew up to be an astrophysicist. The majority of them probably grew up to be reasonably competent at healthy skepticism while embracing the weight of evidence.

The entire history of human knowledge is marked by one constant: people disagreeing on the facts and what they mean. It isn't because of some failure of the schools. People learn things at different rates and to different extents, and they weigh the inputs in different ways; they have access to different information; they have different interests, and they're inclined toward a huge diversity of behaviors.

The only thing that is certain in this world is that scientists often fail to avoid sweeping generalizations and split infinitives.

Kelvyn Park: Surviving A Broken System

This is just excellent. It isn't fancy, and it's more than a soundbite; it requires 15 minutes of your time.

I love the section on "Chicago students deserve equitable funding because.."  I mean, you either believe that or you don't.

I have a little silent wish list of questions that I'd like to ask people before engaging with them. It includes Did evolution happen? Does human activity impact the climate? How old would you say the planet is? What are the basic human rights and do all people humans share them? That sort of thing.

I'm adding this one to the list: do all the kids in the state have a right to an equitably funded public education? 

Most people I know don't toss that question around a lot, but it's really the question that needs to be asked. I wish I could find my audio footage of Professor Danielle Allen, speaking at Senn High School this April. She outlined an excellent path forward for Illinois to establish a credible constitutional basis for equitable funding.  I'll have to dig that up.

h/t Liz Brown

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

If You Teach In A Concept School

If you are a teacher at a Concept School here in Illinois (CMSA, Horizon Science-Belmont, Horizon Science-McKinley Park, Horizon Science-Southwest), the the following statements are incontrovertibly true for a person in your situation:

The people running your school, and the CMO managing your school, are deeply connected to the upper echelons of the Gulen Movement. Your school exists as a revenue stream for the Gulen Movement, which appears to be permanently resettling here in the States during this post-failed coup period in Turkey. The Gulenists have been here in small numbers since before Fethullah Gulen himself arrived, and their numbers have grown rapidly since then.

Your school is an economic engine for them; the school receives a great deal of tax money, and all of this money is available for the Movement. Unlike a normal public school, it is basically impossible to determine who receives the money a charter school spends, particularly the portion that goes directly to the CMO. The schools generate business for Gulen-linked contractors, and the whole thing snowballs into a walled-off economy that brings in more and more of the Gulenists from Turkey. This, of course, is all in addition to the real estate deals and financing deals that make charter investors wealthy.

It's all for the Movement, minus whatever paltry salary they are paying you to be the American face of it all.

The Turkish men managing your school all know this to be true, and the Turkish men working in your schools on H-1B visas know it to be true. The American teachers are not part of the equation, other than as cover.

It is almost certain that the Turkish men working in your schools are kicking back part of their salary as a tithe to the Gulen Movement; the extent to which they are true believers, or simply people taking advantage of a job opportunity in the States, probably varies. But they all understand very clearly what is going on.

The people running your school will probably tell you that the Gulen Movement is a selfless, peaceful social movement and that they have no connection to it, although some of them may possibly at one time or another, have been vaguely inspired by Gulen. None of these assertions are true. The Gulen Movement is a complex, often malevolent political-religious force, deeply involved in human rights abuses and political repression in Turkey. They have an aggressive and massively successful public relations campaign here in the States, and they have fooled or confused a great many lawmakers and policymakers. The people running your school are the true believers.

The things going in Turkey today are the mirror image of what has gone on in Turkey in the past--- when the Gulenists were the ones locking everyone up. If the people being arrested for treason in Turkey today receive a fair trial, that will be more than the victims of the Gulenists received when the shoe was on the other foot.

Your charter school is in almost all respects just like any other charter school, except for all of the above. They need you to do the basic chores of teaching, coaching, and supervising kids, and they don't expect you to be aware of or even concerned about what is really going on. Your school is not a fake school; it's a regular charter school run by people who run schools and test-prep centers around the world---- but it's all in the service of a secretive religious/political movement with a worldwide agenda. So in that fairly important respect it's very different from other charter schools.

No knowledgeable person is suggesting that your school exists to proselytize children into Gulenism; that's not the model here in the States. Yes, there are aspects of your school that fit into well established Gulenist ideological patterns (the Turkish Olympiad, for example; and the foreign travel for some students), but by and large this phenomenon is not remotely about converting anyone. It is about increasing the wealth, influence, and reach of the Gulen Movement, which is the objective of the Gulen Movement throughout its range.

(That being said, you should probably think about the difference between proselytizing and selective recruitment, because I guarantee you the latter is going on on a limited basis.)

I don't know what to advise you to do about the situation you find yourself in, but rest assured, you're serving as a worker-bee in a very determined, very curious colony.  The people you are working for are not being honest with you---- they don't view this dishonesty as a fault; rather, they value the keeping of secrets as a virtue. It isn't beyond your capability to research these things; the scholarship, the journalism, the testimony is all readily available to any curious person. I know what I'd do, but I'm not in your shoes.

From time to time, I research some of the teachers who appear on the faculty rosters of your school and of the other schools in the Concept chain. The only pattern I've ever detected is that you all tend to have a very, very small digital footprint, almost across the board. I sometimes wonder if that's one of the things they look for when your resume crosses their desks---- a basic quietness, a smaller likelihood of a willingness to look at things in a hard way, a public way.

Is that you?

Anyway, I wish you well this school year; I see you're already in session. I hope this all works out for you, really. But I know what I would do if I were you.

NB: I have been saying this for five years now: I have no problem with people in secretive cults; I have no problem with secretive cults running political operations in foreign lands; I have no problem with secretive cults running private schools for people interested in the cult. I don't even have a problem with secretive cults selectively recruiting susceptible adults.

       I mean, I'm not in love with it, but our democracy is supposed to be able to deal with these things.

      The problem I have with it all is that none of this belongs in the public education sector. It's a dangerous, inappropriate mix, and it needs to end.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Regarding The Spiritual Leader Of The Gulen Charters

Just a few links here of Gulen-related information.

This ongoing video series about Gulenism is available online, and they're all quite good. I don't know anything about the person posting them, but the information jives with what you read in the scholarly work, at least from what I can tell.

It's obvious I'm not a scholar, but it would be interesting to use these videos as a starting point for a conversation about this cadre of Gulenists who are running so many charter schools.

Of course, the Gulenists would deny basically all of this.

Oh, and just for the heck of it, here are the 8 most recent H-1B certified visa applications from Concept. They're for the coming school year.

This one is really pretty frightening.. I have no idea who is posting these; this one is a bit over the top, but if you took away the music, you'd be listening to some very fascinating descriptions of the Gulen Movement by former Gulenists.

I understand perfectly well that there are any number of partisans who will say anything and everything about Gulen now that the momentum is there inside Turkey. And Turkey is definitely descending into madness..

But we really need to be having a more honest conversation about the actual nature of this Movement. Because we're in pretty deep at this point.